(I wrote this for National Geographic Magazine,but they wanted something more city-ish, so I decided to use it here.)
There’s a particular time of day when Lodhi Road actually makes my heart contract—literally squeeze. It’s about 4.30 pm. It’s about October-ish or July-ish. I’m driving from the India Habitat Centre towards Safdarjang Tomb. The sun catches the leaves and the light that filters through them, down this avenue, is so soft and rich and gold, you’re almost in another time. If you’re looking down at the pavements, sometimes a breeze will lift the old dry leaves and the melancholy that evokes is sweet and too much to bear.
I used to have the same feeling; a combination of stillness and yearning and pit-of-my-stomach-anticipation when hurtling down Bandra’s Carter Road in a rickshaw. A road is a strange place to have an epiphany, but then if it’s a straight road, combined with the almost automatic task of driving, it can make you zen-like, transcendent. What is Delhi if not its roads?
It’s on Lodhi Road that I think of the small, quiet things in my life that are important to me. It’s a sad road some days, tied up with the death of a beloved person—those memories sometimes chase me home at two in the morning. But in the very early evening or very late afternoon, Lodhi Road is the best of all roads. It is, in fact, my urban meditation.